Learning to Use Linux Commands

With a modern dedicated server, you will be able to handle most of your daily management within a web-based control panel, whether it is proprietary one like cPanel or an open source one like Webmin. There are, however, times when you will still need to run commands from within a secure shell (SSH).

Learning Linux shell commands is not like learning a program with a graphical interface. You cannot learn by simply clicking around until you find the right button. You will be forced to do what many of us dislike: read the manual.

Linux command manuals are usually stored in compressed text documents on the server, and you can access them with the “man” command. For example, to read the manual on the “grep” command, type:

man grep

You can then scroll through the manual with the arrow keys, mouse wheel, or page through them with PageUp and PageDown.

Man (manual) pages will usually include the following: Name, Synopsis, Description, Options (command line tags appended to the command), Author, Bug information, Copyright, and “See Also”. Good man pages will also have example command strings and adequate descriptions for each option.

Once you have the man page handy, you can then experiment with commands to find the combination you need. When you are finished using “man”, press the letter “q” to quit.

In addition to in-shell man pages, you can find most on the Web for convenience. Sites like linuxmanpages.com have comprehensive directories of man pages. With them, you can study the manuals even when you are not logged in to your server. This is also helpful if you have your SSH in one window and want the manual in another for reference.

Man is actually a rather sophisticated command itself with numerous options and configuration settings. To learn more about “man”, type “man man” from the command line.